Ten years ago, when the Supreme Court ruled that laws outlawing sodomy between consenting adults were unconstitutional in the case of Lawrence v. Texas, Justice Antonin Scalia wrote a blistering dissent. "What a massive disruption of the current social order," he practically wailed from the page. He said that the Court had "largely signed on to the so-called homosexual agenda," and contrasted the Court with the good people of America, who "do not want persons who openly engage in homosexual conduct as partners in their business, as scoutmasters for their children, as teachers in their children’s schools, or as boarders in their home. They view this as protecting themselves and their families from a lifestyle that they believe to be immoral and destructive." And perhaps most notably, Scalia lamented that under the rationale the Court's majority was using, the government wouldn't be able to prohibit gay people from getting married. To each other!
He was right about that, anyway. But his dissent in today's case invalidating the Defense of Marriage Act is a somewhat different beast. Scalia spends the first 18 pages of his 26-page dissent far from the moral questions that had so animated him before; instead, he confines himself to arguing that the Court shouldn't have decided the case at all. Scalia is apparently deeply concerned that the Court is butting its nose in where the legislature should have the final say (more on that in a moment).
But when he finally gets to discussing the merits of the case, Scalia does not disappoint.
The Supreme Court decision yesterday that gutted the Voting Rights Act is potentially the most profound since Brown v. Board of Education. It’s more important than Roe v. Wade,Bush v. Gore, or the judgment last year that upheld the Affordable Care Act, because it denies the federal government the power, and state governments the obligation, to enforce democracy in any sense that anyone understands the word. In particular yesterday’s decision overturns nearly half a century’s guarantee of democracy for those Americans who had been denied that guarantee since the Republic’s founding.
As the Prospect's Jamelle Bouie notes, yesterday the Supreme Court finally released Fisher v. University of Texas, its long-awaited affirmative action ruling and ... mostly decided not to decide. There is surely a juicy story waiting to be uncovered about why the Court took eight months to issue a ruling that barely took up 40 pages and left the current state of the law essentially untouched.
Among many other things, the fight for immigration reform is a test of whether the Republican Party is able to move in the direction of reform. I’m skeptical, and Ed Kilgore captures why with a post at the Washington Monthly that outlines the groups of Republicans who oppose reform for one reason or another. When you add up the different groups, it amounts to most Republicans. As he says, “The surprising thing isn’t that rank-and-file Republicans or most of their representatives in Washington aren’t in lockstep agreement with a move-to-the-center strategy, but that the belief in the chattering classes this is the obvious path ahead for the GOP remains so very strong.”
A few years ago, people joked that Fox new was running a jobs program for has-been, hoping-to-be-again Republican politicians dreaming of defeating Barack Obama in 2012. Among the personalities emploted by the network during Obama's first term were Newt Gingrich, Rick Santorum, Mike Huckabee, and of course, Sarah Palin. Palin had the best deal by far: a $1 million a year salary, a studio buily in her house so she wouldn't have to go anywhere, and a schedule of appearances so relaxed that she ended up getting paid more than $15 for every word she uttered on the air. And the thing of it was, she was terrible at it.
As soon as Rick Perry uttered his infamous “oops” during the Republican presidential primary, most Americans likely figured the Texas governor’s political career would soon fade to black. Even before he forgot which federal departments he wanted to axe, Perry’s performance had been less than inspiring, and the aftermath only made things worse, culminating with an overtly homophobic ad complaining that “there’s something wrong in this country when gays can serve openly in the military, but our kids can’t openly celebrate Christmas or pray in school.” I’m guessing once Perry finally suspended his campaign, most folks—those outside Texas—thought he’d return to Austin and quietly wait out the rest of his gubernatorial term.
Ryan Lizza has a behind-the-scenes article about immigration reform in the New Yorker, based mostly on interviews with members of the Senate's Gang of Eight, which shows some of the personal aspects of how big legislation can get accomplished. For instance, John McCain, ever the prima donna, comes across as seething with resentment that Marco Rubio has gotten more attention on the issue than he has. And the part that may get the most notice is the blunt words of an unnamed Rubio aide, who in regard to the question of whether certain immigrants take jobs from Americans, says, "There are American workers who, for lack of a better term, can't cut it...There shouldn't be a presumption that every American worker is a star performer. There are people who just can't get it, can't do it, don't want to do it. And so you can't obviously discuss that publicly." Hey dude, guess what: you just did! But in any case, here's the part that interested me:
While there are a few foundations that give awards for service to the cause of liberalism, most of the cash prizes top out in the four figures. Which is why we might be just a tad jealous that our conservative friends, if they play their cards right, might grab themselves a Bradley Prize, given to those who have gone above and beyond the call of conservative duty; it comes with a check for a cool $1 million. This year's awards were given out last night, and one went to Roger Ailes, the CEO of Fox News, who certainly deserves it.
As Sen. Rand Paul delivered his keynote speech on immigration reform at yesterday's gathering of the Latino Partnership for Conservative Principles, anxieties about the GOP’s identity crisis rippled through the room. The likely 2016 presidential hopeful spoke briefly in Spanish before discussing his Christian faith and opposition to abortion. He assured his audience he got them: “Man’s humanity to man is how we will be judged,” he said.
For some time, everyone in Washington assumed that if any major piece of legislation had the chance to pass this year, it was going to be immigration reform, because at last Republican and Democratic interests had come into alignment. Democrats have wanted reform, including a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, for a long time. Republicans have finally realized that telling Latino voters "We don't like your kind" every couple of years is very bad politics. So with bipartisan "gangs" in both houses of Congress working on reform packages, it appeared that things were moving toward passage.
Until the last couple of days, that is, when things began looking bleak.
On the domestic front, the first six months of President Obama’s second term have been dominated by two issues: Immigration reform and the budget. On the former, a consensus has emerged between Democrats and more pragmatic members of the Republican Party, with Congress poised to vote on a bill that combines a path to citizenship with more border security and tougher enforcement mechanisms. The two parties are sharply divided on how to approach the budget, but—again—there’s room for Democrats to work with more pragmatic members of the opposition.
Over the past few years, liberals like me have pointed out countless times that the Republican party was being (or would be soon, as the case might have been) terribly damaged by the ideological extremism and general nuttiness of the faction that took over the party between 2009 and 2010. But we have to be honest and acknowledge that it didn't always work out that way. They were able to win a number of tangible victories despite the fact that the public doesn't look favorably on the things they wanted to do. In many cases, an extremist Republican ousted a perfectly conservative Republican in a primary, and now the extremist Republican is in possession of a safe seat. And of course, they won a huge victory in the 2010 elections. For all the fun we've had at the expense of people like Michele Bachmann, the damage they did to the GOP wasn't always as serious as we thought it would be.
But I think we're seeing the limits that the House Republicans' extremism imposes on their ability to accomplish a practical political task. The task in question is taking full advantage of an administration scandal or two in order to do maximum damage to the President. And they can't seem to manage it.